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Friday, December 5, 2014

Leaving The Old World

Sometimes it’s hard to say goodbye to the old world, the one we know so much about. And other times we set off with a light heart eager to greet some new world. Often it may be with both sentiments. 

Like most of us who call ourselves Americans I count my forebears courageous to have left their old world for the new. They must have had gumption. I’d like to think I could someday meet up with them and listen to their stories. Wouldn’t you like that too? I wasn’t fond of history classes in school because they seemed dry and remote, unrelated to me. But just think, buried within all those tedious dates of special events, of countries and kings, wars and peacetimes, lie stories of those of our ancestors whose lives bore so heavily on ours that we would not have been quite the same without them. 

I got to thinking along these lines this morning because a considerable number of years ago I was also about to leave my old world where I’d been cozy and snug for nine months. I had my coming out party on Sunday, December 6th. The year doesn’t matter except that it put me ahead of two younger siblings, boys who were dear to me in spite of their childish teasing now and then. Because I was the only girl and the oldest, I always felt that being a girl was something special. Due to our mother’s passing as a young woman, I became a second mother to those little guys.

I’ve been deeply grateful for both the Hahn family, my father’s, and the Darling family, my mother’s, and though they were neither famous or wealthy, they were honest, God-loving, kind and caring people. They were Americans, loyal and true, who gave their children the very best they could and the kind of childhood we can all remember as nearly idyllic. 

I suppose not too many years are left for me, but I intend to make the best of them, as I have in every past year. I’d like to take the time to do more reading, study more the best books, and dig deep into that place within where Jesus said we shall find the kingdom of heaven. I don’t expect I’ll go through any “pearly gates,” and I certainly don’t expect to “burn in hell,” but day by day, both here and hereafter, I expect life to go on for me and all, eternally giving back to us all the love and dedication we have for God and man, and even ourselves. I see the road ahead as leading us in paths ever more pleasant. Old age complaints and death, cannot dampen our gratitude for the good we’ve been blessed with all our lives. Only the bad times will fade away. 

I’m glad to see each dawn as an opportunity to enjoy life where work and play are as indistinguishable to me as they are to a little child. I can hardly tell the difference, even now. 

In case I don't get to blogging again until 2015 comes along I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a New Year of getting older and better! Don’t hurry. Don't worry. Don't work so hard. Just make work be play. 

The prophet Zechariah saw his new world the way I’d like to see mine. He spoke for God when he wrote:

"Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.'”

I think it won’t make much difference whether we see ourselves as old or young. We’ll all be happy at home with God and all His other children. I can see us all in those streets, sitting and telling our stories, walking with staffs in our hands, or happily playing ball on the streets!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Time To Think, Write, and Give Thanks

You haven’t found a blog by me in quite a spell. Why? It’s the usual reason, I haven’t had time to think of one. No, that’s not the answer. I’ve thought of dozens but it takes long hours to write one and my life of late has been caught up in short vacations and family visits. All good, but a writer needs to be alone to think so thoughts can spill out on a page. Some writers are able to jot down the skeletons of their ideas, put them on file and get to them later. With me it’s like fishing, I need to give the line a sharp tug when an idea nibbles or it gets away. 

Now I have a day alone to prepare creamed pearl onions and fruit salad for my contribution to tomorrow’s Thanksgiving dinner at Robin’s place nearby where the family will gather. It’s a tender sweet time of the year to express our gratitude but a time when we cannot ignore the empty chairs, forget the ones who have gone or couldn’t make it. 

On my family picture wall among the happy familiar faces I find a small oval frame that holds a picture symbolizing family and all that is good about this sojourn through “the valley of the shadow of death.” A small flock of sheep clustered around the feet of Jesus. The Shepherd is carrying a tiny lamb whose mother is by his side looking up. She is in the shade of the Shepherd indicating her trust.

Amidst the other sheep, but trailing close behind, I see only half of one black sheep. He is done with his straying and humbly willing to follow now in the right path and he, or she, is the closest one to the Shepherd. Way in the back one sheep is straining its neck to look ahead, making sure the Shepherd is there and still leading.

The others? I could, I suppose, identify each one as some member of my family, or even see each one as myself at different times of my life.  The face of Jesus is a picture of gentle divine Love, a symbol of his love and sacrifice in leading us home to the recognition of Heaven within and ever present. 

The family picture wall seemed the proper place for that little treasure. I found it at a flee market in Medford Oregon about thirty-six years ago and count it as one of my most precious possessions. Seems odd that it cost me only twenty-five cents!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Dad's Horse and Cart

I barely missed those horse and buggy days, but Daddy didn’t. One of our favorite bedtime stories was the one about his first and only horse. We heard it only once.

“I was so proud to have Blue,” he said. “A boy didn’t feel like a man in those days until he got out of knee pants and had his own transportation. I’d ride her into town and everyone knew Blue. I used a bridle, of course, but I always rode bareback. She was smart and knew my commands as well as if she was human. I dare say no one felt prouder of his horse than I did my little filly.” 

“What’s a filly? Daddy?” I said.

“A filly is a small female horse. My Blue was the most spritely and beautiful of any animal I’d ever known, even though she was small.  And she was mine! I’d saved up the money to buy her with what Pa gave me for doing chores and helping him in the fields.”

Then Daddy got a dreamy look on his face as if he’d left us and was standing there admiring his little horse, not sitting at the foot of our bed.

I had to ask, “Why did you name her Blue, Daddy? Was she really blue? I never saw a blue horse!”

“Well, honey, if you’d ever seen Blue after I gave her a bath and curried her down in the sunlight you’d think she looked blue. I suppose she was actually black but I just had to name her Blue.” Then he went on, “Blue was my best pal on the farm and many’s the time Pa would have to tell me to leave her in the barnyard and get back to work. Well, I knew that Blue could run fast and when I saw they were having a cart race at the county fair that fall, I went to my savings again and bought a small cart and a harness.

I told her one day, “Blue, my girl, we’re going to practice racing this cart and we’re going to the county fair and show the whole world you’re not only beautiful, you’re the fastest little filly on the track! You’ll be famous! I knew she understood something of what I said because she whinnied and shook her head up and down just like she agreed.

“Did she do it, Pop? Did she win the race?” My little brother Danny was sitting up on the bed then, and he was eager to get to the end of the story.

“Now hold on, son, I’ll get to that. I have to tell you first how we practiced. It took her a while to get used to the harness and cart but soon she was all right with it, though I’m sure she preferred the way I rode her bareback. We’d go to the fair grounds to practice. She’d trot so fast that people would come to watch us. They loved little Blue, but there was a problem. When she was tired she’d slow down and plop on her belly. Now if that’s not tellin’ a person she’s done runnin’ I don’t know what is!”

Daddy went on. “But I never used the whip on Blue and I wasn’t gonna either. I just sweet-talked her and then she’d get up and go again. We got farther every day.

“Well, the day of the cart race came and I was sure my little Blue would win. The starting gun spooked her some but she was off. She wasn’t used to having other horses and carts on the track either but even that seemed to spur her on. She kept right on going faster and faster until I thought the wheels might bounce loose and wreck us both, but Blue had got us way out in front and the crowd was cheering for her.”

“So, she won the race, huh Dad?” Danny bounced on the bed.

“Well sir, I was sure she’d make it ‘cause we were not far from the finish line but then Blue started to slow down. I was not about to use the whip on her, not even then. I called to her from the cart and begged her to get up and go. I called out, ‘You’re doing great, Blue! Just keep it up!’ But by then she was tired and fell onto her belly. When the other carts raced on by she just looked at them curiously as if to say, ‘What’s your hurry?’ 

“Well, I realized then that she hadn’t ever practiced racing with other horses and carts and she was simply tired. I got out of the cart and whispered in her ear. I said, ‘You did OK, Blue, my girl. Even if you didn’t make it to the finish line and lost the race, everybody here knows you could have beat them all. I’m not going to be embarrassed, I’m still proud of you!' And, you know what? When my little Blue crossed over that line slowly, the last one, the whole crowd clapped and stood up for her. We couldn’t have been more cheered if we’d really been first!”

“But weren’t you disappointed, Daddy?” I asked.

“Of course I’d rather Blue won, but still I was proud of her. She was no dummy. We should all know when it’s time to quit. Later when the vet visited our farm he took a look at Blue and said, 'Sorry to tell you this but your little filly has a heart problem. If you’d have pushed her on in that race she may well have died on the spot.'”

Daddy looked down then to where his hands were folded on his lap. I could see he was trying to hold back the tears when he finally said. “Blue didn’t last long after that. I sold the cart and never tried to win a race again. In fact, Pa had bought a brand new car, a Rio, before long. I was proud to drive that into town but you don’t love a metal animal, and I was smart enough to let the car go on its good looks. I never raced it."

Daddy added, “I wish I hadn’t raced Blue at all, but at least we were best friends and she was smarter than any horse I ever knew.” 

Then Danny said. “Well, Pop, aren’t you glad you didn’t whip her?”

Daddy looked up then and smiled at us both. When he hugged us we felt prouder of him than we’d ever have been to see him holding a blue ribbon!


Thursday, October 16, 2014

No Time For Being A Stick In The Mud

I just finished cleaning out the refrigerator. It shames me to find jars and cartons with their contents gone sour and moldy. I say to myself, This isn’t me! Yet it certainly can’t be blamed on anyone else. When I finish I feel good, more like myself. 

Before I tackled the refrigerator I got caught up in Facebook and as I cleaned out the fridge I wished I could do the same with Facebook. But Facebook belongs to those who write on it and if things get too obnoxious I can learn how to “de-friend.” (Haven’t had to do that with anyone yet.) 

Some of my friends say, “I don’t do Facebook!” I can see their point, but they may not know what they have missed. For me it would mean missing pictures of where my children go on their vacations. Pictures of their children and themselves at home as well. I would probably never know much of many of my nephews and nieces and their children. Wait for letters filled with snapshots and you’re likely to wait forever. Some of my Facebook friends share stories of inspiring feats of accomplishment, like acrobats, dancers, artists, comedians, people who have overcome adversities and succeed in life. There are many amusing pictures of darling babies, young people I know, friends and the things they say and do, the places they go. Often some of my Facebook friends send me U-Tube offerings, a variety of slide shows about animals and people that entertain, inspire or make me laugh. My only problem with Facebook is that I have to watch myself or I’ll spend too much time there.

When personal controversy enters in, and really good people forget their goodness in pushing their point, then Facebook is like going through the refrigerator and finding something good that has turned bad. It’s even sad. Then I think, shall I get into the act and add fuel to the fire with my own opinions or try to be a peacemaker or just overlook it? After all, my views as an octogenarian could get me classified as a kooky old woman. My point gets pitched. So, I’ve found it best to wait and be asked for my opinion. More time to think about things and argue with myself. 

In high school I took a class in debate and one of my assignments was to argue on the side of an issue that I totally disagreed with. I think it had to do with the age young men should be drafted into military service in times of war. (No drafting of women then, only enlistments.) I only remember that this forced me to see how I could be of another mind when I looked at the topic in a different light. I won the debate even though it didn’t change my private opinion. What it did do was show me how to be understanding and respectful. I learned that one can be convincing without putting down his opponent and demoting herself at the same time. 

It’s impossible not to have opinions but it is possible to know when, where, how and if we should voice them. When I think back on my life I cringe at the way I was so sure of everything. Sometimes I allowed temper to destroy my equilibrium, squelch my case and put me in the uncomfortable seat of apology where the point I’d been making got lost because of my behavior.

So this is just another way I’ve found that getting older is getting better. I am still learning how to communicate wisely. When I feel the adrenaline rise I am learning how to button up and pray. Do you ever find yourself carrying old grudges and re-igniting them in anger? I do, and I’m always sorry for it.  I’m more open to changing my mind now, more willing to consider all sides. 

When I hear where another is coming from and see where they’re going when I give them the floor and really listen, things become clearer. 

Sometimes I wonder if God isn’t giving me more time here on earth because I need to clean out my refrigerator, rather, my suitcase of lessons un-learned before arriving at the gates of heaven. This should be a time of polishing the gemstone of my better and best self. Old age, any age, is no time for being a stick in the mud! 


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Someone is Waiting for You

“We have changed our policy and now allow one or two pets. With a substantial deposit, of course.” Sabrina, the young woman in charge of admissions here was responding to my announcement that I had a pet. Well, Tommy, my canary, passed muster and remains a sweet and songful presence in my new home, fun to watch, delightful to hear and like the nursery rhyme character Tommy Tucker he pays for his supper by being himself, singing and swinging and sharing my home. He can chirp too and always greets me when I come in the door.

My friends at dinner yesterday got to talking about their pets, dogs and cats, but no birds. I said, “We had a cute little dog when our kids were growing up. He was a stray and just camped out on our doorstep scratching at fleas until we broke down, bathed him and took him in. He looked like a Welsh Corgi, but probably had a Heinz variety background. I could write a book about Tykie and maybe someday I will.”

“Oh, you must do that!” they chimed. I could see they all were bursting to tell about their own pets so I let it go at that, but since I have no competition here at the computer I’ll tell you what I might have added. 

Long after Tykie died when I became widowed a small cat came to me. Because he came around Christmas I called him Tiny Tim. Timmy was a gray tabby. He was past the cutesy kitten age but not fully grown. I found him out by my mailbox and could see immediately that he’d been left there deliberately because there were two small plastic dishes under the stack of mailboxes. One had a few cobbles of cat food in it and the other held water that was getting low. I’d not have been surprised to find a little boy or girl hiding in the bushes nearby watching with tears, waiting to see who would adopt the last little kitten of the litter. No one had wanted him because he was so plain. This would be one last chance before the animal shelter. Maybe.                                                                                    

Timmy himself seemed to know why he was there and when my two small granddaughters saw him and how he purred, winding his little body around our legs they too recognized the signs. “You could take him, Grandma. We have Dottie, our Dalmatian, so Mommy wouldn’t let us have him, but you could take him, Grandma!”

“I’m thinking. I’m thinking,” I said. Then, “Maybe we could try him.” Back to my place with cat, food and water dishes and me thinking, “What have I let myself in for?”

Of course, Timmy was a shoo-in. He and I were pals of the first order, but when I got a job I knew he should have company so I found Tilly, a cute little female look-alike at a pet shop. Then, after about ten years I got married again. My two tabbies did not welcome my new hubby. They could probably see the beginning of the end for them when I moved to a different city leaving them behind with the house and cat sitter. Then the house had to go too and I knew I’d have to find a home for my cats. Robby, my new husband, knew I suffered. He said later, “There was a time when I wondered if it would be me or the cats.”

No one wanted two old cats but when the house sold our woman real estate agent said, “I know you’ve been looking for a good home for your cats so I waited to tell you that we could take them but they wouldn’t get the personal cozy attention you’ve given them. We have two house dogs that would not tolerate them in our house, but we live on a farm and your cats could join the other nine cats that sleep in our barn.” 

I knew Timmy could hold his own and Tilly might enjoy the company so moving day came and I tried to hold back the tears as I watched them go away in a cage in the back of a pick-up truck. A year or so later we came back to see how they were doing. 

Our friend said, “Tilly didn’t last long. The vet said she couldn’t survive an operation so we had her put to sleep. As for Timmy, he’s not a company cat so we’ve made a place for him in the garage.” 
When I saw Timmy lying there curled up on a thin pad I picked him up and looked into his green eyes. He stared back but there was no sign at all that he ever had known me. When we drove away I was heartsick.

I called a year after that to see how Timmy was and my friend said, “I’m glad you called now. If you’d called shortly after you left I’d have had to tell you he was gone. We hunted high and low but couldn’t find him. Then just a few days ago I stopped in to see the elderly woman who lives alone about a mile or so down the road. I hadn’t seen her for a long time. When I came to her door there was Timmy waiting on the doorstep! She smiled when Timmy strolled in and said, ‘You know, this little cat came here several months ago and just moved in with me. I love him. He’s such sweet company.’ I didn’t tell her where he’d come from. I just felt he’d done very well for himself.” 

You can imagine how I felt! As you see, I’ve got a good start on a book there too. I could also write a book about Lady, the little Border Collie pup we got when we moved onto the Oregon ranch. She had papers and was beautiful but turned out to be an untrained lovable little farm scallywag.  

Wouldn’t I have been a bore at the dinner table telling all that? There’s so much more. Like I said, I could write a book but everyone has their own pet stories. This is probably as far as I’ll go telling mine. You needn’t tell me yours either except in bits and pieces. You have to be best buddies with animals before you can cozy up to them audibly or in print. 

On the other hand, the exercise in writing memoir might be given a jump start if you could practice on your favorite pet. You could just find an opening line like, “There was ________, waiting for me!”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Your Home Tells A Lot about Ewe

We were done moving. Laguna Beach was to be the place of our retirement and we’d found a Mediterranean style home built in the 30’s standing tall on High drive with a commanding view of the town and even a peek of Main Beach with its curling waves flowing in from the great wide Pacific. We spent eight years enjoying that charming old house and wearing our fingers to the bone bringing it up to its heyday standard. 

“Enough of this,” Wally G. said. “Let’s get a house that serves us instead of one that makes us serve it.” So we bought a lot further down High Drive and built our dream house. It, too, had a view of the ocean overlooking picturesque rooftops and trees. 

A friend, an interior designer, offered to help us but Wally G. said, “No thanks. Joyce is good at that.” I wasn’t so sure, until I saw what our friend had in mind. It was all in monochromatic shades of gray to go with the stone fireplace. We didn’t have the extra money to invest in the new furnishings and when she insisted on re-covering Wally's favorite chair and ottoman, we got along without her help.

I can’t say that I don’t admire beautiful and professional interior design. Many a model home I could have moved into happily but how long would it stay that way? Could I ever ditch all our personal family memorabilia and keep that plain tasteful serene look that you could take in at a glance and never need to step up close to examine anything and ask about?

I suppose if my house were to burn down and nothing was left but ashes I could do it. But after nearly seventy years of collecting, discarding, and collecting more, Christmas gifts, shopping spree finds in quaint places, I’m done hoping for the designer look. I say to myself, “Forget that, face up to the facts, - you’re never going to get out of your Old Curiosity Shoppe.

I have a few friends who are into African decor. Large and small carved creatures such as giraffes, elephants, zebras etc. tell me they’ve either lived in Africa or visited it or hope to visit it and that they’re intrigued enough to bring the safari home. Others have gone Asian with parasols and calligraphy. The cottage look would be my choice, but what does my home tell? It won’t take long to see that I’ve brought the farm home with me. I have chickens, roosters, mother hens, and even pigs. Not large collections, not large pieces, but pictures or small carvings. My theme could have come from my cousins’ farms that I enjoyed with them as a child. (If I ever find a little Shetland pony like their “Fanny,” you can bet she’ll come home with me.) Also, the ranch we bought after the dream house, the one nestled into the Applegate River in Oregon amidst the Siskiyou foothills. Eight years of country living remain indelible in my heart and mind. 

Yesterday Robin and I dropped into The Cottage Gallery on Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano where she shows her watercolors. Of course, I loved her display. My walls could be her gallery. I was delightfully impressed by the other artists’ works also and came across a portrait of a sheep, probably a ewe, that stopped me. The artist, Nancy Egan, just happened to be manning the desk and she told me that her paintings of sheep were done from photographs of real sheep who are going to native people in third world countries. With the permission of the Heifer Project which allows her to use photographs of the animals to paint from, she is able to donate part of her earnings to their efforts.

“So, this beautiful creature is one of the project’s real animals and may very well be alive today helping some little family get a foothold on a good life?”

“Yes,” she said. “Each one is taken from a photograph of a real animal and when I paint it I get such a feeling for the creature itself that I fall in love with the work.”

“I can certainly see that!” I said. “Well, I want to look for a small cactus arrangement out in the back garden, but I’ll be giving thought to this painting of yours.” When I’d found the perfect miniature cactus garden in a small white bird cage I brought it to the desk.

“I’ve been thinking,” I said. “Your ewe has crept into my heart. She can be symbolic of the sheep we raised at our ranch. I never got any pictures of them then. So, if I may, I’ll buy her.” 

“I’m so glad she’ll be going to a good home,” Nancy said.

That’s how my home gets designed. Little by little my heart gets into the act and my home becomes a museum. The pig from Hog Hollow, the pair of yellow chicks my sister-in-law gave us, the rooster, the mother hen on a nest of eggs, these are my decor. They are me, a self designer of one well-feathered nest. And now a ewe. I can see her basking in the sun or seeking out the shade in her family home. I can see her lambs too bouncing around with small dark children. A new painting can reveal a wealth of scenery, past and present. An interior designer might tell me where to hang it, but it will no doubt go the rounds here in my cottage home. You’re welcome to come and see! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

"We Didn't Know We Were Poor"

The young woman was finishing up her bi-weekly cleaning of my house last Wednesday. I had her initially when I was in a guest house here back in February. It had been a long time since I’d had household help and I saw what I’d been missing. Now I can’t imagine choosing to clean other people’s houses for a job. It’s not a favorite task for my own house. I didn’t say as much to her but she must have read my thoughts because she suddenly said, “I really love my work!” I was so impressed with her sincerity I asked her to come to my house when I moved in.

Last Wednesday we talked a little and it turns out we had quite similar childhoods in many ways although her home was in Mexico and mine in Minnesota. We both grew up on rural five acre plots of land without, at first, the modern amenities of indoor plumbing and electricity. When we’d finished laughing about all the things we had to do without she said exactly what I could have said, “But we were all so happy! We didn’t know we were poor. We even felt rich!”

That’s what a loving family and grateful hearts can do. Wanting more than we have can be a downer if it keeps us focused on lack instead of supply. That is probably one of the most basic problems in life, to think of humanity as the haves and have nots. Limitation, or the sense of it, can cause untold misery but what if limitation is merely a blindness to what is already available to us all universally?

 I remember the time when we’d moved to a house that didn’t have a dishwasher. Our former house had one and with our family of five I'd found it to be a great benefit. At the time my husband said, “We’ve just put out more than we’d planned for this house. A dishwasher will have to wait.”

Then one day I saw a full page glossy ad in a magazine for the exact dishwasher I’d hoped to have. It was the same canary yellow color as our refrigerator, same manufacturer, full size but portable on wheels so it didn’t need to be installed and we’d be able to take it with us when we’d be moving the next time. (Marines don’t stay anywhere very long.)

A friend of ours had once said, “Never say, ‘I want’ because you are at the same time saying, ‘I don’t have.’ If you keep saying, ‘I don’t have it’ you won’t have it. Say instead, ‘I have the idea of it; therefore I have the real part of it,' and most likely you’ll soon have the thing as well as the idea.” I remembered that, tore out the page with “my” new dishwasher on it and pinned it on the bulletin board in our kitchen. 

“Now I have my new dishwasher,” I said, and whenever I found myself wishing I had the real thing I’d say, "But I do have the idea, and that is the real thing.” Conceiving of things as thoughts may not be new, but we often forget. Ask any thinking person, and all agree that from a pencil to a skyscraper every thing begins with a thought. 

I did not hold my breath to see how or when I'd get a new dishwasher. In fact, I simply ceased wanting a dishwasher. I knew if I was to have one it would come sometime and, if not, so what? Washing dishes by hand, I thought how grateful I was for hot water and soap. 

Not long after that we had a friend from out of town over for dinner one evening. He was on a business trip and when we’d finished eating I looked at the table begging to be cleared off and said, “I have a new dishwasher but it doesn’t wash dishes yet.” 

“What kind of a dishwasher would you buy if you could?”

I replied, “It would be a portable canary yellow Fridgidaire. Want to see a picture of it?” 

He said, “I know exactly what it is. We’re putting Fridgidaire appliances in the new housing development I’m working on here. If you want, I can get you one for less than half of what you’d have to pay retail.” 

I looked at my husband opposite me. He was grinning broadly and I knew that I’d soon have the thing as well as the idea of a new dishwasher. And I did.

Of course, this principle has some built-in caveats such as, try to make it work for anything and everything and you’ll run into problems. Principle has many qualifications. Greed and selfishness would certainly throw a monkey wrench into the mix, but it can’t be wrong to declare for ourselves and others any right and needful thing. That must be what Jesus meant when he said, “Ask, and ye shall receive.” He also said we are meant to have a more abundant life, not a world's banquet of power, gold and goodies. 

Can’t we imagine how the realization of God’s impartial love could bring world peace? We all have the right to be happy and to emerge from self-imposed limitations. Unlimited good is for all, but we have to cherish the idea, the source, the proper use of good. Satisfying occupation, home, food, clothing, happiness, mercy, justice are all right ideas and belong to us all by gaining the true sense of things and accepting whatever we can use.  

Can I picture the idea of this? Can I cherish it? Can I pin it to the bulletin board in my heart? Well, if it can work for a dishwasher, I say why not let it work big time?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Memoirs 101


I'm sure some of my readers have either written or started to write, or thought about writing their life stories to pass down to future generations. I've begun to do that and am trying to get away from mere statistics to make it story-like. Here's one way to do that. Write about random incidents in your life that you think are memorable. You can put them in chronological order later if you wish, but it's more fun and less laborious, I think, to just let them come out spontaneously regardless of sequence. 

Here is a sample of one of my earliest memories which remains vividly alive: 



Watch Out For Those Curbs!

When I was about four I did what I’d been told not to do. I stepped off the curb at the end of our block and crossed the street. Several blocks away I was feeling gloriously free to be exploring beyond my own neighborhood. I had walked that way with my mother once before and now I was doing it all by myself! When I got to a corner store and walked in the grocer greeted me, not realizing I was alone because he was busy waiting on another customer. 

Soon he turned to me. “So, little lady, is your mother here?” I shook my head no. 

“Did she send you here to buy something?” My head nodded yes. “What do you want?” I pointed to a loaf of bread in the glass case. “A loaf of bread? This one?” A silent yes with the head again. I watched him put the bread in a paper bag. Then he handed it to me. I took it and turned to go. 

 “Wait, that will be 10 cents, dear.” A blank look on my face must have told him. “Oh, you’d better go home and get some money. I’ll keep the bread until you get back.” I hightailed it out the door.

(I have to explain here that in those days children played freely on the sidewalks near their homes and the grocer perhaps assumed we lived nearby. Neighborhood children might have strayed in frequently for candy or ice cream. )

Well, by then I was beginning to feel my little escapade was not going well. I should have heeded that quiet voice in my head, "Mama said No!" when I stepped off the first curb. I was ready to go home. 

Outside the grocery store door everything looked different. I didn’t know which street to take so I just started walking. I didn’t recognize any of the houses and suddenly storm sirens started screaming. Now I was really frightened! Where was home? Where was Mama? I wanted to cry but I didn’t see anyone nor did I want to excite any strangers out of those strange houses. For the first time in my life I knew what it was like to be lost, and I didn’t like it! 

Dark clouds descended, rolling over me ominously and a sudden wind was so strong it blew my skirt up over my face. I thought it would blow me away!  All I could do was keep on walking but still I was walking in a different world, a strange world. Now I was really scared! 

After a few blocks I still couldn’t see anything familiar. Just then I heard a car engine behind me and turned to see Mr. Ratche, a neighbor of ours, in his Model T. Ford. He pulled up to the curb and called to me.  

“Joycie! Would you like a ride home? Come, climb in the car and I’ll take you.” 

I'd been told not to go with strangers but Mr. Ratche? He wasn't a stranger. As I stepped up on the running board and slipped onto the leather seat a flood of tears poured out. 

Mr. Ratche handed me a handkerchief. “Don’t cry, Honey. I’ll get you home. A storm is coming up and your Mama and Papa have been looking all over for you.”

At home I saw police cars with lights flashing. Mr. Ratche carried me in the house and my mother screamed and rushed to take me in her arms. Daddy was there too. He had closed the gas station where he worked to come home and look for me. Policemen in uniforms with strange leather belts over their shoulders loomed tall in the doorway. A few neighbors were there too and suddenly our house seemed very small. Everyone was talking, the telephone kept ringing and I buried my head on Mama’s shoulder. Daddy answered the phone. “She’s home,” he said. “Yes, she’s been found. Thanks for your help.” 

When the others left Mama washed my face. “Oh, Joycie, why did you go off? I’ve told you over and over never to step off the curb or go out of sight. You can’t know how scared we were!” 

The storm soon passed over leaving branches of trees and roof shingles scattered over lawns and sidewalks but one little girl was safe. And wiser too. Not long afterward when my Sunday school teacher got to the Ten Commandments and she read, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days maybe long...” I knew what that meant. And whenever I saw my foot on the curb I never stepped down to the street unless my hand was in one of my parent’s hand. Of course, the day came when I outgrew that rule but not without permission. Then I'd learned another rule, one that has lasted all my life: 
STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. That rule works for more than street curbs too. 



Saturday, September 13, 2014

No Average Day


We were talking about exercise. “What do you do on an average day?” he asked me. 

“I get up, wash my face or shower, dress, make the bed, clean the bird cage, have breakfast, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, water the patio plants, study the Bible Lesson, and ...” From there on I was stuck. Nothing could be called average after that.

“I don’t have any average days.” I say. "I don’t live by routine except for morning and bedtimes. Some days I go shopping on the bus. Some days I tackle a job that has been put off like filing papers, taking the laundry down to the laundry room or reorganizing drawers, playing the piano. Once or twice a week I go to a meeting, a class, or play a few rounds of bridge. If I get to checking Facebook I’m stuck for about an hour or more looking at pictures or mini movies people send about cute animals or their cute little kids looking cuter every day. The computer is a time guzzler so I try to avoid it except for checking the e-mail Inbox and writing blogs or working on my memoirs. It’s great for answering questions, but I’ve had to definitely limit my two kinds of Solitaire to one game each per day." 

Once a week I go off campus with my daughter to our writing class, have lunch somewhere, and do some shopping. That’s the best time of the week. Well, another best is my Saturday morning Skype chat with Wally K, my son who lives in Virginia, or the once in a while visit my second son David makes when he passes through on his way up to his Simi Valley job. When my grandchildren and great grandchildren visit, well, that's definitely not an average day!  

I usually watch the evening news broadcast and sometimes give in to watching an old movie. I like the black and white ones best, but TV can be a time guzzler too.  So far I have not put myself on a schedule for exercise. I don’t intend to. I get enough exercise but reserve the right to change my mind and start bragging about early morning walks if I feel like it. I find that making things mandatory can also be making them a drag. Whatever one does should seem special.

As any of my readers know, I’m addicted to writing. I trace that back to the fascination I felt as a small child watching Mother write letters. When her pen moved so beautifully and quickly across the pages saying something, I was sure that was magic! In school I loved writing. When I took a class in typing my high ambition was to be a typist! In high school I was editor of the school paper which appeared in the local town newspaper every other week. In college I majored in English, especially composition. When I got married it was homemaking, mothering, volunteer work and some social get-togethers with friends. Although we were a career Marine family we went to as few cocktail parties as possible. Church friends and church activities were staple.

Here at The Willows I find a wealth of interesting activities to engage in and dinners in the dining room are great for socializing. So how do I put all that into the question of what I do on an average day? Here’s some advice I like to go by in my older, better years:

“Eat when you’re hungry,
Drink when you’re thirsty,
Sleep when you’re sleepy
and
work when you feel like it.”
(author unknown)

On that last one, I’ve found that jobs I’ve been avoiding because I’m not in the mood for them are done best when I do feel in the mood for them. Most of them wait while they can be put out of sight. The reward for finally getting to them is magnified exponentially by the waiting time.

The thought of some of my choices wasting my time comes like a prick of conscience now and then. I remember though how St. Paul said, “For it is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” The word “His” was not in the original text so I take it to mean that both the desire and the good pleasure belong to both God and me.

The will, desire, to do what is pleasing to both God and me is a marvelous motivator. I don’t have to do anything begrudgingly. The Bible also says that God loves a cheerful giver. Surprisingly some of the most dreaded tasks can be done happily when the mind lets go of its dread. After doing such a job I always get that sweet pat on the back saying, “Well done, good and faithful!” If I ever hear “What took you so long?” I know that's my own voice. God never qualifies His praise.

So now I push a couple of buttons and my sage sayings go on line. All right, they may not rank as "sage," but the ease with which they fly out to you from me is really magic! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

College, Home Style

My Grandmother Darling didn’t go to college but when it came to learning she was no slouch. In two years of my own college education when I lived with her I’m sure she derived much vicarious pleasure in the fact that I, her only granddaughter, could have what she and her three daughters had been denied, a college education. The only son in their family had been a brilliant student, earning the honor of becoming valedictorian of his graduating high school class and about to do the same in a top-ranking college of Engineering when he was suddenly stricken in the flu epidemic of the early 1900’s and died.  

Grandmother used to faithfully read her daily copy of The Christian Science Monitor from the first to the last page. “I’ve heard that one can get the equivalent of a college education by doing that over some time,” she told me, smiling sweetly. Many a time, too, she’d bring up the fact that back in her Minnesota home town she had been the president of The Browning Club. I was reminded of that today when I remembered one of Browning's poems that I love: 


The year 's at the spring,

And day 's at the morn;

Morning 's at seven;

The hill-side 's dew-pearl'd;

The lark 's on the wing;
         
The snail 's on the thorn;

God 's in His heaven—

All 's right with the world!


Some mornings, many in fact, seem like that to me, but I looked up Robert Browning on the computer and, of course, he knew tragedy and anguish in his day too. I’m glad he wrote this poem because it helps to restore my faith that the world will be someday as bright with joy and harmony as he saw it that morning and took the time to let us see it through his eyes. It’s like a promise.

The idea, that we have not developed our spiritual senses enough to understand and appreciate a heaven at hand, (and that’s what we’re here for,) gives me hope. When a dream or nightmare gets to be intolerable we’ll wake up and find ourselves in a better world. Of course, I can't prove I’m right, but neither can anyone prove that I’m wrong. So, until the last page of my book I’ll have to wait to see who is right. In the meantime I can choose what to believe and Robert Browning’s little poem is a glimpse to me of how things ought to be on earth as in heaven.

We hear it said that some things are too good to be true, but I say bombings, terror, wars, beheadings of innocents are too bad to be true! James Foley’s parents were interviewed on TV today and they said they had not and would not watch the film of their son’s beheading. I think they know that a good man, as they knew their son to be, could never in God’s morning have been touched by such a picture. But they are eager to let this lie spur them actively on to do what they can to bring in a better day and a better world so that things like that can no longer be. 

My grandmother did too. After her son died she always thought of him as going on to build bridges somewhere in the world. She didn’t live in la la land, but she did help many others see through dark dreams including one that I witnessed myself of a woman who had been paralyzed from her neck down. I went with her daily for a while when she visited the patient. Then I don’t remember seeing the woman until some time later and she was up and about with normal freedom of health and mobility. Others too there were whom Grandmother helped but I’d only hear of them incidentally. She never took credit for herself. “God did it,” she’d say. Then she’d go on reading the Monitor, the National Geographic, or her religious textbooks. She never stopped getting her own “college” education.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"A Bird In the Hand Is Worth..."


Tommy Tucker, my canary, has the best seat in the house. His cage sits by a wide window facing a beautiful wooded park. It doesn’t obstruct my view much and at times I’d swear he can picture himself out there flying among the trees. Since we moved here he sings more than he used to. He always sings facing the window and I wonder if he imagines himself to be courting a little wild bird female or staking out his territory. 

Tommy has a lovely song but sometimes it's too loud and disturbs my telephone conversations. No neighbors have complained yet. I’ve told him, “Tommy, I love your singing but maybe you could ration it out a bit.” He didn’t seem to catch my meaning but a couple days ago I found a new toy for him. It’s a small hanging mirror. No, I wasn’t forgetting that one of my bird books said a canary might think he has company and not bother to sing if he had a mirror. Or even get angry to have the “other guy” invading his territory. But what did those bird books know? Birds could be as different in their likes and dislikes as people. So, I gave the mirror a try.

Well, Tommy was fascinated. He gazed into the mirror and chirped softly. He even sang a low sweet trill to his visitor. He might have been saying, “So, here you are, the one I’ve been singing to. You finally came! It’s so good to know there’s someone who looks like me.” He hardly remembered to eat his treats that day. No more loud singing, just chirping conversations.

I hadn’t meant to cut off his singing. It’s the main reason I wanted a canary, but I felt for him. I put myself in his place. Wouldn’t I love to have company, even if “she” mimicked me and didn’t seem to have a mind of her own? The ways I’ve solved it for the present is by putting the mirror in after cleaning his cage and giving him fresh food and water. So far it has not brought his song back, but when I took the mirror out yesterday his songs resumed. “Where have you gone, my friend? Come on back!” And I'm saying, "What do I do now?" 

For the time being I think I’ll wait and see how those "two" get along. There’s a slightly smaller look-a-like male canary in the pet store. He’s been there for months and they’ve even cut the cost of him in half. Every time I go in the store I look to see if he's found a home. Might Tommy be up for some real company? I know he'd prefer a female, but am I up to breeding birds? No. Somehow I don’t think this story has ended. I’ll keep you posted.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memory Is Faithful To Goodness

 Yesterday morning my daughter, Robin, and I attended our first class in writing memoirs at the Sea Country Community Center. On the way to lunch afterwords I said, “I’m not sure I agree that a memoir should tell all, no matter how bad.” The teacher had said, “We all have hidden indiscretions we’d rather not tell about but they may be the very things that will capture the attention and sympathy of our readers. They’ll make us human. People will relate.”

I looked over at Robin’s tanned face as she drove, arms and hands in the sunlight gripping the wheel. She always has insight to things that puzzle me but she was thinking. I continued, “That’s reasonable advice, I suppose, but what if the things I tell about may injure others? And even me? Don’t we all eventually outgrow our sins? So, why do they need to be documented? I’m writing my memoir for my children, grandchildren and all the ones to come. If I tell some things about us that are shocking or unlovable, what will they remember? Those things! Not the good I have to tell. After all, I’m not writing it as a submission to True Confessions Magazine." (Is that still in print these days?) Anyway, this time even Robin couldn’t give me a satisfying answer. 

A little later over lunch, however, we continued discussing the class and I brought up a few times when my mother-in-law had done things that annoyed me greatly. 

“It’s true those things colored my memory of her,” I said. “I even let them take away some of the feeling of endearment I may have had for her. Should I record those things and color the image our grandchildren will get only through my writings, or should I tell of her good qualities only?”

“Well, Mom, maybe you could paint her as I saw her, a lovable grandmother who welcomed me into her room when I’d get home from school. We'd talk, laugh and play cards, or watch TV.” 

After a pause she added, “You could treat the things that bothered you as humorous. They were, you know. Funny. Nothing was really malicious about Grandma.”

“You’re right, Honey! Remember the time she went on a bus trip to see the fall colors in New England and brought back presents for everyone?”

“Not really. What about it?” Robin said.

“Well, she brought her other daughter-in-law a beautiful black beaded sweater. Do you know what she brought me? An ironing board cover! But here’s the really funny part of that: I would no more have wanted that beaded sweater than a dish rag! I was actually delighted to get the ironing board cover!”

“That’s what I mean, Mom. She knew you both. And what about the time she set her breakfast tray on a tray table close to her bedroom door inside the bedroom before you, Dad and she left for church. Auntie Dorris was living with you then too and Grandma had suspected Dorris was snooping around her room when you three went to church so she’d set a trap. But when you got home you had opened the door to lay her shawl on her bed before she could warn you and you knocked the tray over, spilling coffee, and breaking saucers on the carpet. She even confessed to you later what she’d done!”

“Oh, yes, you’re so right, Robin! That will be the way I tell about “Mama.”

Mama Wethe was of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. She was not more than 5 ft. tall, if that, and though there was more than a trace of stubbornness in her, she had unbounded love for her son, Wally G., my husband, her daughter and other son and all her grandchildren. Because of that I agreed to take her into our home. She was with us for 20 years. You can’t live with anyone that long without a touch of friction now and then. Mothers-in-law get a bad rap but daughters-in-law do too. 

When I tell about “Mama,” (she wanted me to call her Mama, so that says something,) I know just how I’ll handle it in my memoir. Yesterday I let my old grievances come to the surface and I got mad again. I didn’t like myself for that. The old saying that “memory is faithful to goodness” is a good one. It should sweeten the love of our progeny for all I mention in my memoirs, including me! If anything is so bad it would override the good, well, I say, if I can't see anything to laugh about in it, maybe it's due for the dust bin.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sticking To The Title

“Getting Older Is Getting Better.” Often I’ve had to defend the title of my blog. Not to others but to myself. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not age that hinders me but age-old beliefs about age.

My grandmother used to say when one of the grandchildren would ask her how old she was, "I’m as old as God.” Most of us have outgrown the image of God as an old man up in the sky. To God the word “old” is irrelevant, even obsolete. That’s the way my grandmother saw it, and could God have made her (or any of us) any other way?

Another answer to age might be one gleaned from The Holy Bible: “Before the morning stars sang together I was there.” An astronomer I once knew said that we are all made of star dust. No matter how you look at it, we can claim that age is largely just what we make of it.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

The line between the good of getting older and the bad of it does, indeed, rest upon our thoughts. Some people are so fixed on youth that they’d rather die than grow old. I feel that old age or youth, just as my shadow grows longer or shorter, has little relation to me. It is simply a phenomenon. If it looks fat or thin, who cares? I see the fleshly idea of me to be like my shadow. The “real” me is not there. What I think is what defines me at present. 

So, as the years go by no matter what the body says about me I can believe it or not. I can worry about it or not. Just one thing is required of me, to do my best and keep on doing my best. Circumstances can’t change my mind for better or worse. Only I can do that.

Am I satisfied with my progress in learning the truth, the good, of all things? Not always. I sometimes remember a time when my husband and I had an appointment with a man, a well-known speaker, whose business then in his advancing years was teaching people how to read aloud. The meeting was to take place in his home studio and his housekeeper answered the door and seated us. We waited. And waited. Finally, he appeared and I can only say he did not look good. He limped and leaned heavily on a cane. He had on a bathrobe and slippers and his hair was tousled and, well, I’ll leave it at that. But he greeted us with a big smile and said, “I’m sorry but could we make our meeting some other time? I’m not at my best today." Then he quickly added in a firm voice, "but I’m doing the best I know how, and that’s all the angels are doing nowadays!” 

He was not, I’m sure, suffering from a hangover. Maybe it was from one of those mean old-age beliefs. Although we never saw him again, what he gave us in his smile and comment has helped me immensely. Whenever I struggle I can see myself in the company of angels, being cheerful and doing my best. Here at The Willows I feel I truly am in the company of angels, all of us doing our best, and we don't concern ourselves with age, age-old beliefs, complaints or shadows. We greet each other and say, "Hi there! You're looking good!" And we mean it because it's true!

Guess I'll stick to my title.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Water, Water Everywhere," But Nary A Drop to Spare


California used to have an average precipitation of 18” of rainfall a year. I don’t know the figure now, but I do know it’s drastically less. I’m sure many are working on the problem (a pipeline from Alaska? Desalination?) But the need to conserve water is immediate and urgent. That’s got me to thinking of small ways to cut down even more. I won’t enumerate them all but as I washed dishes this morning, by hand, I used half the amount of water I’ve been used to and my thoughts went back to when I was a child.

Water was not scarce in southern Minnesota when I lived there as a child, (1930-38) but in our new country home we didn’t have a well yet. There was a spring across the road and I’d go with my daddy to watch him fill a tall shiny pail with that pure, clear water burbling out of the hillside. It sounded heavenly! Then he’d put the lid on and haul it home taking my hand in his other hand as we crossed the road. We used that water only for drinking and cooking. For bathing and washing clothes, etc., we had an underground cistern outside the kitchen window. Water from the rain came off the roof by way of eaves troughs and channeled through a filter into the cistern.  That water was not for drinking but served us well otherwise. A little red hand pump by the kitchen sink drew it out of the cistern. 

Washing dishes by hand nowadays is no problem since I live alone and take my meals over at the dining hall. Seldom do I use pots and pans for breakfast or snacks so a pair of rubber gloves have an easy life in the cupboard under the sink. I love the feel of sudsy water on my bare hands and often think of when as a child it was my turn to wash dishes. A dishpan in the dry sink with soap flakes and hot water from the reservoir on the kitchen range worked well but I tried not to slosh into the larger sink. After the last pot was clean I carried the dish basin out to the back porch and threw the sudsy water onto a small lilac bush. That bush loved the dishwater and grew to be as huge as a tree producing bountiful blossoms of fragrance each spring.  It didn’t mind the soap, even thrived on it. It was, of course, “Ivory soap 99.9% pure.” I doubt it would have liked our modern detergents.

Now if I have left-over clean water in a glass or any other container I pour it into the watering can on the patio to use on the few plants there. I’m careful not to run the faucets unnecessarily especially the hot water one. You know the game.  Perhaps this drought will spur the state to go forward with more permanent answers.

I think often of my Daddy hauling spring water home and how he dug a well 25 feet deep with his shovel! That well lasted until we could afford to have well diggers come and do the job professionally, crowning it with a tall windmill. I think of the rain water on our roof pouring into the cistern and, years later, of the time I lived on a ranch in Oregon where our water was spring-fed into the house from the hill behind, and how we watered our lawn and fields with huge irrigation pipes from the river.

Now I’m being encouraged by my kids to drink more water. I do, and as I swallow I think I’ll start calling all water precious.  "Precious water." The words go well together, don’t they?



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Telling Your Story

If you are one who wants to write your memoir and keep putting it off, I’m here to tell you, just start. If you want to take writing lessons first (the Senior Centers often have teachers,) well, just sign up. But if you still want to tell your story and don’t want to bother with lessons, here are a few tips:

Pretend you’re one of your own children or grandchildren or a close friend, and then ask questions. Write the answers just the way you’d answer them if you were talking to them face to face. Don’t worry about being correct with grammar or spelling or punctuation. That can come later. Just tell it from your heart exactly as you would if you were speaking to  them. If the imagined questions get into areas you don’t want to discuss, just skip them a while, or altogether. 

One rule I learned in classes over and over was this: Show it, don’t tell it. We’re not telling about the past. We’re making it present, real again by what people do and say. “He avoided my eyes and looked down at his shoes,” says it better than “He looked guilty.”

Now maybe it’s presumptuous for me to be giving tips to many of you who are more professional than I. This is for you who feel you need help but I have had numerous articles and essays published as well as one book. Memoirs do not have to be professionally written. They just need to tell your story straight from the heart.

As for me, I’m beginning to write my own story today so blogging may take a back seat. It starts out with a poem. The kind of poem Robert Frost wrote, sort of random rhyme but with a point. Here it is:

Before I sleep I always pray
and then I think of yesterday
when Mama would sing
and Daddy would stay
to tell us a story 
of olden day.

More stories too he drew 
right out of the blue.
Ones he’d make up
and, though we knew,
Daddy could make
them seem so true.

Stories never really put me to sleep
but gave me something
to ponder and keep when the lamp went out. 
Later I’d give in to those old friends three, 
Winken, Blinken and Nod, and we
would sail swiftly off to their wonderful starry sea.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Now, as that other “night” hovers                                                  
I take up my pen, (not my covers,) 
so kids, grandies and all our progeny see
some leaves to this branch on our great family tree.
 Shadows will melt into light from above
when stories all fade into new morning’s Love.

Joyce Darling Hahn Wethe Robertson
                                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rock, Rotate and Recline!

As I advance mentally, (note that I didn’t say physically,) I’m finding far more satisfaction in mental activity than physical. Now I don’t mean to put down the benefits of physical activity. I know that a brisk walk in the morning air, a good game of golf on a nine hole course, a cool swim in the afternoon, and a turn around the dance floor at night are all delightful. I’ve had the best of them all, but for now I’m enjoying mental movement and the new chair I bought this week sort of symbolizes this.

I’d been thinking that my old recliner Lazy Boy chair was not serving me best where it was, opposite the room from the sofa. Facing the sofa, as it would when I have company, it needed to be turned to the corner of the far wall when I was alone and wanted to watch TV. It was a heavy chair and hard to move.

“I need another recliner, Robin,” I said on our Monday outing. “Why?” she asked. “Your chair still looks good.” I said, “Because it lacks one feature that would be most handy. It doesn’t swivel.” She agreed. “Let’s go shopping for one that does,” she said. 

Well, the Lazy Boy store had moved somewhere so we tried Ashley House Furniture where I’d bought the new sofa bed. I didn’t go in but Robin checked it out. “They have a few recliners that rotate but they’re huge, made for men. Comfy though.” 

“Nope,” I said, “I need something smaller.”  Then I remembered someone had told me that Big Lots have recliners that swivel. “Let’s go look,” Robin said. Such a daughter! When she’s with me she seems to be just as enthusiastic as I am about my house. Well, the upshot of all this is that we found just the perfect chair. It’s the same chocolate color as the sofa with leather-like upholstery, sized perfectly to the space. Not only does it rock, rotate and recline but it has a small footstool that rocks with me. And I got it at a big discount because it was a floor model in perfect condition, all assembled and ready to go. 

It tickles me the way so many of my needs these days are met with such ease and economy. I was ready to give away the Lazy Boy chair but Robin had already pushed it out to the patio and set it under the roof’s overhang. Great comfort for my outdoor living room! On these cool mornings it is now my breakfast chair.

As usual, I like to play around with words and the three I chose for the title of this blog have significance beyond the new chair. They illustrate the mental attitudes we of the advancing generation can use to exercise our minds. 

Those of you who have read and loved J. Allen Boone’s books, do you remember Kinship with all Life? Another favorite of mine is his You Are the Adventure. In it he recommends the use of a rocking chair to get into the rhythm of the universe. Great advice! Try a good rocker and see what it will do for you.

Then  there’s the word rotate. Maybe swivel is a better word but in any case the idea is to change your perspective, look in another direction, see another side to the question. Now that advice is priceless too. A great exercise for the mind.

And lastly, the word recline. The word harks back to its original meaning which is to bend backward in a relaxed position. It also means to be supported in this. With a reclined attitude you are forced to look upward. What might you see? I’d say a more mental and spiritual view of things, and in a reclined position you don’t get stiff-necked. You let go somewhat from your stolid opinions. (The word stolid originates from the late 16th century and to the word stultus, meaning foolish. Hmmm.)

Rock, rotate and recline. My new chair lets me do all three. But these three mean so much more than physical activity. They set the mind on a trip filled with adventure. They help us exercise that little word “let.” They send us off to destinations previously unseen and awaiting our arrival. 

Who needs a treadmill, or even a magic carpet? I have a new chair that rocks, rotates and reclines but it takes me to get it going. Now, in my advancing years, that’s my favorite kind of exercise!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

There's A Salvaging from every Shipwreck

Yesterday I spent the whole day and well into the night doing nothing much but watching movies on TV. A day without something on the calendar is a treat. Only the commercials broke the mesmerism of my movie day, and then I had to use the mute button on the remote and toggle over to the news or something else. I told myself not to scold; the day may have been put to better use, but there are worse forms of decadence. 

Today I’m in the same boat, nothing special to do, but I haven’t even checked to see what’s on TV. I’m thinking more about the pros and cons of looking back, looking forward, and trying to glean some real meaning out of the present. With the news stations vying to capture our attention with the latest terror real stories I’m reminded of another old movie, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!” 

Those words must tempt us all at times. I wasn’t going to mention it, but the tragic death of Robin Williams has saddened me. I was not a special fan of his until the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” came along. I think it could have been a portrayal of himself, the clown with the teary eyes. He just wanted to get off the world. The problem of depression many suffer in today’s world is so evasive they say that one mustn’t ask why. There’s no common answer to the fact that others living under similar circumstances can float while they sink. 

Fear and sadness and terror and cruelty along with poverty, sickness, sorrow, hate and all the ills that flesh is heir to can be too much for the tender hearted. The look-at-the-bright-side optimists, (that’s me,) get scorned off the stage. Unless they become comedians or preachers.  

My theory of it all goes something like this: If the agonies seem overwhelming, do your little bit to help and know that each loving thought and tender gift you send out will snowball and fill someone’s need. Or be spurred into doing a lot. I’ve yet to see how despair and magnifying of the downsides of human life can do much to solve the problems of the world, however their one usefulness may be in rousing us to action. 

Mister Robin Williams, you knew this. People who knew you best have much praise for you and your generous, kind, loving nature. Old theology may try to condemn you for taking your own life. I do not, but neither do I recommend it to anyone who thinks he’s reached a bitter end. The beauty of each new day is that here or hereafter there will be another chance to live freely and gratefully. This is only one small chapter in our book. The indestructible spirit we can never disown is the seed of us that germinates after the shell is cracked. 

The innocent, pure, delightful child of every one of us will bring smiles to the world whenever we reclaim our childhood. You have done that. You are in Love’s arms, and all the mistakes and error’s of the past will go down with the boat while you find yourself safe on shore, exploring a new world and salvaging only the treasures of the old. 

As for your family, they will, I hope, think of you as an angel presence, just as I have with my mother’s passing when I was fourteen. We all die sometime only to find that death is the mere turning of a page at the end of a chapter. Let the new chapter begin!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Story of the Golden Fish Hook

“What kind of bait could a woman use to catch you?” That was just one of the questions I posed to Wally G. on our honeymoon back in April of 1945. That’s what honeymoons are for, isn’t it? To get important questions like that answered. What I was aiming at, of course, was to know what I’d done to catch him.

He thought for a moment and then said, “No bait at all. Just a plain little gold fish hook would do it for me.”

(Now I must say here that Wally was the kind of fellow people instinctively like. Not that he sought attention. He was just natural and fun to be with. But when it came to women he could kid around with them, dance with them, talk with them, but not flirt. You see, he was plagued with the fear of being turned down. He might have got that from his mom who used to tell this story about herself: “My sister, Hattie, could flirt and boys hovered around her like flies around fly paper, but I never could so one day I asked her how to flirt. She looked at me pitifully and said, ‘Gosh, Gracie, if you have to ask don’t try!’”)

I said to Wally, “Did I catch you with a golden hook?”

“Yup, you did. Or I should say, your grandmother did.” I’d been living with Grandmother Darling for two years while attending Riverside Junior College. She had been a friend of his and his family for many years and had set her eye on Wally as an ideal match for me even before he got home from the South Pacific during WWII. When we did get together it was a family affair including his parents and his sister, Carolyn, six years younger and about my age. We had a good time and I was quite impressed with that young Marine officer in snappy uniform, but nothing more came of it. I figured he was the big brother type.

Getting back to that conversation about the fish hook...(it seems like I’ve told this before so I’ll skim through.) 

Wally said, “Carolyn told me about your short unsuccessful engagement to that other guy and I was surprised you’d even be thinking of marriage. You were the kid sister type to me, but then I began to see you in a new light.” He went on. “I’d been included in a group of Officers Club gals in Hollywood, and had my eye on one of them, a short cute perky one, but hadn’t had the nerve to ask her out. Then she up and married someone else! I was shook. It was the story of my life, the too darn slow guy. Shortly after that Mom got a call from your grandmother asking, “Has Wally ever thought of dating Joycie?”

I’d have died of humiliation if I’d known! But it was after that when Wally started coming down from L.A. on his bi-weekly leaves to "spend time with Mrs. Darling and Joyce." These visits would start with a home-cooked dinner by Grandma on Friday night and on Saturdays a fancy date for the two of us in Hollywood. First, a stop at Cedric’s Flower Shop for a corsage, and then one of the Sunset Strip restaurants on Saturday. Afterwards a stage show or dance at the Palladium or ballet. It was a delightful courtship and led to our marriage the following spring.

I’ve been wondering lately if Wally would have ever broken the ice with me or any other girl if it hadn’t been for a matchmaker like my grandma. Turned out he was an excellent flirt when he knew it would get smiles or laughter out of me. He was careful not to flirt with anyone else, thank goodness! I was young but could play the part of a young bride quite well, and later a mother of three lovely children. It was a good marriage. Lasted 40 years. And all it took was a plain gold hook!